This weekend I went to the meeting of the Atlantic Conference of the Brethren in Christ (the denomination of which Circle of Hope is a part) and I was reminded of how strange and beautiful the people called Circle of Hope really are. I live in a trust system and I regularly have dialogue that is uncomfortable and/or unresolved all the time. We don’t agree to disagree, we agree to agree- constantly striving to be of one mind even when we have to hold our disagreements in tension for a while. We are bound together in love, not in a common thought system or ideology. This love takes mutuality and time, which our current strategy for conference meetings does not give us. The meeting is way too short for the 300 or so people who were there to connect in any real way and the topics of conversations were too minute for us to have any room for meaningful dialogue. We weren’t asking the sort of questions that could unite us in a common cause. We weren’t figuring out how to do what God was calling us to do. We were showing up out of fealty to an organization we love. That’s why I went–not because I felt it was vital to our mission, but because I felt a sense of duty to the Brethren in Christ. I think we can make those meetings vital to our mission. Just add a whole lot more dialogue. Here’s what Circle of Hope says about dialogue in our proverbs.
Dialogue keeps us connected and protects our gravity
Everyone is recovering from the sin addiction; expect conflict.
We want to achieve our way through the danger and opportunity of conflict: being affirming and assertive, concerned with relationships and goals.
Forgiveness is the root of our love; because we are flawed, loving each other is not always easy. We practice Matthew 18. Our body is held together by a dialogue of love.
Truth without loves kills, while love without truth lies.
Engaging in healthy dialogue is what keeps us real. We want everyone among us to experience respect and understanding as they explore what they think and feel.
Jesus is living the greatest mutiny ever – we should not waste our rebellion on each other.
Everybody gets listened to, but people who make and nurture disciples and who make love happen get listened to more.
In my new role as pastor of Circle of Hope at Marlton and Crescent I am searching for ways to make dialogue happen. I see our sense of ourselves as a team increase when we get together to tackle a task, whether it’s fixing the roof, multiplying cells or making our Public Meetings incredible spaces for encountering God. I have witnessed my new congregation already adeptly living this out and I’m looking for ways to help us do it even more. This probably means more meetings. Meetings get a bad rep because its easy to think that talk is cheap, but if we remember that in authentic dialogue we are making real connections with others and protecting our gravity we can rescue meetings from that bad rep. Can we be so bold as to say with Paul in Romans 1:11 “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong–” If this were the thought of each of the delegates of the Brethren in Christ Atlantic Conference (which I think it is for most) and we had enough time to express that to one another (which is not the case) then the drive across half the state would continue to entice me, and for better (and more sustainable) reasons than the ones with which I went.
(BONUS- we did get to express our mutuality in prayer and support of Bryan Hoke- our new bishop, and I was up early enough to see the sun explode the snow in a beautiful misty sunrise over a Lancaster County field)